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Passive smoking (living with a smoker)

chemicals; addiction; nicotine; lung; disease; asthma; smoke; cough; smoking; passive; cigarettes; tar; carbon; monoxide; poison; law. ;


What is passive smoking?

cigarette smokeIf someone is smoking then the smoke they blow out into the air can be breathed in by anyone who is near to them.

The smoker is actively choosing to breathe in this smoke. People nearby are passive smokers because, although they do not choose to smoke they are actually breathing in the smoke too.

What is in the smoke?

Scientific studies show that there can be around 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. They can be breathed in by anyone near a smoker. They can also stick to clothes, hair, skin, walls and furniture. Try wiping a clean cloth on a window near where someone has been smoking and you will see what you could be breathing in.

Some of these chemicals are:

  • tar - which has many chemicals in it some of which cause cancer
  • carbon monoxide - reduces the amount of oxygen in blood - so people can develop heart disease (the amount of carbon monoxide is not enough to cause any immediate effects in passive smokers (such as feeling tired), but over a long time the effects can worsen heart disease)
  • poisons - including arsenic, ammonia and cyanide.

What can happen

Passive smoking hurts eyes, noses, throats and lungs and makes people cough.

feeling sickChildren are more likely to get illnesses like

  • pneumonia (infections in the lungs)
  • bronchitis
  • coughing and wheezing
  • ear infections
  • asthma - smoke is a common trigger.

Children can get burnt by cigarettes or by playing with matches or lighters.

What can you do about it?

  • Move away from cigarette smoke.
  • Talk to your parent or caregiver about passive smoking. Tell them it is now illegal in South Australia to smoke in a car if there are children in the car too, and that it is also illegal to smoke in sports venues and outside eating areas at hotels or cafes.
  • If your parent or caregiver smokes, ask if they can make the house and car smoke-free zones.
  • Go to your room if someone is smoking in the house.
  • Encourage (DON'T NAG) the smoker in your family to give up smoking.

What some kids say

  • "Some people start smoking because they think it looks cool, but it's dangerous and it smells." Alex
  • smoking"People who smoke smell like an ashtray." Greg
  • "Cigarette smoke makes me cough and my eyes feel sore. Vera
  • "My dad is trying to give up. He gets grumpy but we try not to mind. We want him to give up smoking - then he'll feel better." Dylan
  • "If you smoke, people around you think that you're disgusting." Rowan
  • "I'm never going to smoke because I don't want yellow teeth." Jacob
  • "My granddad has bad lungs because of smokes. You can hear him breathe from a long way away." Mike
  • "Say "Look at the pictures on cigarette boxes. That could happen to you if you smoke." Aisha

What the law says about smoking

  • In Australia there are now warnings on cigarette packets about the dangers of smoking.
  • smokingMost public places are no smoking areas - including playgrounds, sports venues, bus stops and outdoor eating areas.
  • Many countries have organisations like QUIT which will help people to give up smoking.
  • Cigarette advertising is no longer allowed in many parts of the world.
  • Many schools run anti smoking programs.
  • There are anti smoking advertisements on TV, in newspapers and on cigarette packets.
  • You have to be 18 years old to buy cigarettes in many countries.
  • In South Australia it is illegal to smoke in cars where there are children. Smoking is banned within 10 metres of children's public playgrounds. Smoking is also banned in any bus, train or taxi shelter. There is a fine of $75 to $200.

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate
"If you are near smokers, you are smoking too. Help your family to work out how to have a smoke free home. If you live in South Australia, see if your school has copies of the 'Smoke free home and car' booklet, which can give you ideas about how to change smoking habits in your home."

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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